published Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

UTC Mocs moving wrestling base of operations to Maclellan Gym

UTC wrestling head coach Heath Eslinger
UTC wrestling head coach Heath Eslinger
Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

UTC MOCS CRACK TOP 20

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga has moved into the National Wrestling Coaches Association top 20.

The Mocs are No. 20 in the poll released Tuesday. It's a two-spot jump for the team after they won 27-12 at The Citadel

UTC entered the poll on Jan. 14 at No. 23. It was the progam's first Top 25 appearance since a No. 18 finish for the 2007-08 team.

The Mocs are 12-5 overall and 3-0 in the Southern Conference, and four of their five losses have been to Top 25 teams (Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin and Purdue). They won 25-13 at then No. 15 Stanford.

UTC will have its final home meet Sunday against Appalachian State, beginning at 2 p.m. at Maclellan Gym.

— Ward Gossett

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling team will be taking a step back in time following the current season.

The Mocs will be abandoning McKenzie Arena and moving all aspects of the program across the street to Maclellan Gym, which served as the program's home for decades.

"It's an aesthetic improvement," coach Heath Eslinger said. "When I first took the job I went to [then athletic director] Rick Hart and proposed the idea of moving to Maclellan. They opportunity wasn't there at the time, but I kept bringing it up. I don't know if [higher-ups] got annoyed with me or not, but we got the right people to say yes this time."

UTC wrestling was headquartered at Maclellan, especially during the Jim Morgan era, until McKenzie Arena was built. Then the practice room and coaches' offices were installed in the Roundhouse, although meets still were held at Maclellan.

"When you think of Chattanooga wrestling you think of Maclellan Gym. Nobody sees our practice room now, really," Eslinger said. "I like the idea of us being in one facility, competing where we practice."

It has been 30 years since there was any type renovation for wrestling, and the move will allow the Mocs to have a central location for offices, locker rooms, practice room and exercise room. They are moving into what once was the program's wrestling room and weight room on the Douglas Street side of the facility.

"We'll be in a portion of the auxiliary gym," Eslinger said. "When you come in the Douglas Street entrance and come up the ramp, one of the first things you'll see will be the wrestling room."

The area will provide wrestlers with some amenities other programs offer that previously have not been available to Mocs wrestlers.

"The wrestling space is actually a little bit smaller, but it's more usable," the coach said. "There's an area now for bikes in an exercise room, and we will have a student lounge that overlooks the practice room where they can go before or after practice -- where they can store their lunch if they bring one, a place where they can hang out."

Sharing two offices at McKenzie for four coaches also has been cramped and bothersome, and now Eslinger and assistant coaches Jon Soriedas and Mark Ellis will have separate offices.

"We'll still come to McKenzie for study hall and the training room, but there is talk of putting a satellite training room at Maclellan," Eslinger added.

The move is part of a long-term plan he put in place when he took over the program.

"You don't win with facilities, you win with people, but shiny stuff talks," Eslinger said when asked if the facility could be a recruiting tool. "What this does is give people in our organization something we can call home and take a lot of pride in. It also shows commitment from the university to help us move forward, and I think [prospective] students want to see that the administration is behind us."

Contact Ward Gossett at wgossett@timesfreepress.com or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.

about Ward Gossett...

Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...

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